I have spent so far more than 700 hours in a cockpit as part of the crew and never really had a major problem that required an immediate diversion. Well, now I can cross that on my bucket list. As I type those words, I am sitting in an hotel, safely, in Iowa instead of Nebraska. As we were leveling off at 16000 feet on our one hour hop from cedar rapid to Omaha during the usual Sunday afternoon trip, a sudden and quick pop sound was heard. I was just looking at the newspaper but my attention was now captured and I shifted my eyes from the article I was reading to my captain to see if him too had heard it and perhaps had an answer to the obvious question, what the heck was that ? He didn’t even need to say anything as his facial expression was saying plenty. He too had no clue. But soon, as we were looking forward, facing the sun light shinning straight into the cockpit, we noticed the now obvious modification of the windshield on the captain side. Airplanes windshields are made of thermally or chemically toughened glass and contain usually two panes. The outside pane was completely shattered from top to bottom. We first thought that it was a bird impact but at this altitude and because of the lack of visible blood and guts, we came to the conclusion that it was most likely a structural failure. After all, with the high number of pressurization cycle this run requires, any part of the airplane can get tired. After pulling out the quick response handbook from the center console and going through the couple of items on it, my captain transferred the controls of the plane to me as he could not see anything and he took the communications with ATC over. He advised them that we needed to divert to the closest suitable airport. Being about 50 miles away from Des Moines and still at 16000 feet high, It seemed like an appropriate choice and we got vectored for a straight in to their longest runway. I slowed down the airplane to avoid overstressing the windshield more and It was a good thing that we were not higher because with high altitude comes higher cabin pressure which could have required us to make an emergency descent in order to avoid blowing the inside pane of the window. After about 15 minutes, I was flaring slowly above runway 31 at DSM, and softly touched down with the main landing gear and even more with the nose wheel to avoid potentially creating more damages. It was my first real incident and I realize how important it is to stay focus and calm. Even though there was no immediate danger at any time, it was interesting to see how a situation is approached in the real world, instead of in the simulator. We followed the steps that we are trained to do, including assessing, troubleshooting and adapting quickly with the situation and finally deciding on the best course of actions to assure the safety of the flight crew and airplane. For having a very limited experience flying for an airline, I already see the purpose of the high quality training that I did at Flight Safety International even if it was just to deal with a shattered windshield.